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Space after Period. Are you old?

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Do you leave two spaces after a period or one? In the ancient days of typewriters, we were taught to hit the space bar twice after a period. With computers, we only hit it once. According to the New Yorker, that's how you can tell a writer's age. (I've never had a period, so I never had to hit the space bar after mine).

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/comma-queen-space-the-final-frontier?intcid=mod-latest

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I grew up at the end of the typewriter era. I've used one (we had one at home when I was a kid) but not very often. My first year at university was also the first year that they had online terminals for the students in the computer lab. Of course, they were held down to 1200 baud, which was painfully slow, but it was still much easier to type and edit things on those computer terminals than it was to use a typewriter.

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I too was taught to put two spaces at the end of a sentence, but with the advent of word processors I soon discovered these devices were not capable of working out what to do with the double space when wrapping lines for instance. So I quickly re-learned to type just one space (feeling guilty each time I did it, knowing that I was contravening one of the cardinal layout rules).

I'm slightly surprised that software never took the double space on board. Modern word processing software can convert quote marks into opening and closing quotes, can convert double hyphens into an m-dash, can correct spelling as you type, give the first word of a sentence a capital letter, convert three dots into an ellipsis and all sorts of wonderful stuff - but as far as I've found, they don't lengthen the space between sentences, and neither do they keep two typed spaces together when word wrapping unless you laboriously type them as 'non-breaking spaces'.

I still think a paragraph looks better with a bit of extra space between sentences.

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Do you leave two spaces after a period or one? In the ancient days of typewriters, we were taught to hit the space bar twice after a period. With computers, we only hit it once. According to the New Yorker, that's how you can tell a writer's age. (I've never had a period, so I never had to hit the space bar after mine).

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/comma-queen-space-the-final-frontier?intcid=mod-latest

We were also taught to signal turns by sticking our arm out of our car windows but I wouldn't try that in today's traffic!

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My father used an old Underwood manual typewriter for years...damn thing weighed about 30 pounds. But I used it to hunt and peck my English term papers all the way through high school. Made for strong fingers. Of course it had a carriage return lever and Dad used to give that two whacks to space his paragraphs.

It took me twenty years to convince him that computers were replacing typewriters and that a good word processing program would make his writing easier. I wish I had a photo of the expression on his face when he wrote that first document on his PC. But I also wish I had that Underwood which he tossed out, the darn things are valuable relics worth money these days.

I find it humorous that there are still two things that seem to be fixated in his mind. He still double taps the spacebar after a period and constantly hits the Enter button thinking it is the Return feature. Old habits die hard.

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I used an Underwood, a Royal, and a Smith Corona portable typewriter in my day. Always double spaced after a period as taught in ninth grade typing class; still do, and still prefer how that looks on a page. I take that double spacing as a metaphor for life as it was back then--unhurried, calm, less stressful. Today everything is a rush, no time for smell the coffee--far preferable to roses--and no room for the decadence of hitting the space key twice.

That said, word processors are far, far superior ways to write than typewriters. I'd never in a thousand years have produced the stories I have if a typewriter was my only tool.

C

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I was taught to "type" (I'm young enough that they called it "keyboarding") in the seventh grade in middle school. I already "knew" how to "touch type" but I learned that I was doing it wrong — that's what the teacher told me, "You're doing it wrong." When I saw how fast she could "keyboard" I was hooked, and I learned what the little bumps on the F and J keys were for, why the keyboard had the (in my opinion, stupid) layout of the keys (see http://computer.howstuffworks.com/question458.htm) and told her what I thought (I never avoided an opportunity to tell my teachers what I thought, usually doing it in a humorous way which almost always kept me out of trouble) and was amazed when she agreed. "Since that's the way keyboards are made, it's better to learn how to use them that way," she said. So I plowed on and ended up being the fastest typist in my class, 55 words/minute. BTW, this was on a computer keyboard. I've never used a typewriter.

So, I learned to press the period key and then the space bar one time.

I do a lot of web development. When I edit stories for some writers who use two spaces after each period, they are entered in HTML as a space followed by a non-breaking space (  ). Now, that means when the story is displayed by some browsers and it runs out of room on a line it will break between the period and the space-nbspace combination and put them at the beginning of the next line, dumping the space but keeping the nbspace at the beginning of the line, indenting the line by one character. Also, you might have noticed that most browsers will dump all but one space if a document has space-space-space-space (etc.). These things can be controlled in your browser if you edit the CSS code in the browser's default display style sheet. Make a copy first! You can really mess up how your browser displays content if you make a mistake editing the CSS.

Colin :icon_geek:

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Traditionally with cold set type an extended space was placed after a period. This was usually an em+ space. That is the space taken up by the letter M in the type face plus a bit more. The skill of the typesetter came into play in being able to adjust this spacing to get the justification they wanted in the line. The addition of extra space after the period does not have the visual impact that inserting extra spaces between words has. With the development of the typewriter the practice of space plus developed into two spaces (two characters) as the mechanical typewriter could not do a part character spacing being monospaced. Some electric typewriters (mostly the daisy wheel type) did in fact support variable spacing.

With the introduction of word processors the requirement to double space after a period started to diminish as the processing software automatically set the correct spacing for the justification. If you are using a good word processor it will automatically place an em or em+ space after a period. Good word processing software will put a soft em+ space after a period. This means that it is a space that is desired to be em+ but can be altered to fit the printout or display requirements.

The two space requirement on an monospaced typewriter does not apply to word processing and should not be followed. To quote from a guide I have to using a word processor (Phillips 1976) it states: Only a single space should be inserted after a period, the processing software will automatically adjust for the required spacing to fit the text to the selected justification.

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All you youngsters...<sigh>.

In my day we just used sharp rocks to scratch the words into the cliff side. Danged kids had these new Apple mudPads. Sure, easier to write and great to erase. But personally I don't think they'll last.

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Well, I have a niggle, Nigel. If you're using left justification, it doesn't adjust the space after the period at all. Besides, I don't only use two taps for show. I do it out of habit. And I have no desire at all to enter rehab.

C

Actually Cole even with left justification the best of the word processors will adjust spacing to get the maximum number of words on a line. If a end of line word takes it over the line limit by one or two characters, they will attempt to adjust spacing to fit the word on the line. That is why sometimes a small change in font size can have a massive effect on layout. The very best word processors will detect the two spaces after a period and correct them to an em+​ space automatically. I believe even Microsoft Word did this at one time, or you could set it up to do it, in Word 3, but the function appears to have disappeared after that.

When I was working professionally as a technical writer the word processing software that was used did change two spaces after a period to a em+ space. I am not sure but I believe that a number of mechanical type setting machines used to take the double space press to insert an em or em+ space.

I must admit that I trained as a touch typist at school in the early 1960s and it has taken a lot of rehab to stop double spacing after a period. In fact I still do it at times though I try not to.

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I'm guessing, Nigel, that when you say 'the best of the word processors' you're referring to specialist software that lesser mortals don't have access to. As you say, MS Word in current incarnation doesn't do it, and neither does anything else that I have come across, even the venerable and rather wonderful WordPerfect. Maybe the Wang kit that was briefly popular (and the subject of much schoolboy mirth)?

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Opus for President! Now if we can get Opus to fight the younger generation's insistence on using "fail" as a noun and young females' belligerent insistence on speaking with Vocal Fry, I will follow him to the gates of Hell!

I think Berkeley Breathed reads The New Yorker.

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I'm guessing, Nigel, that when you say 'the best of the word processors' you're referring to specialist software that lesser mortals don't have access to. As you say, MS Word in current incarnation doesn't do it, and neither does anything else that I have come across, even the venerable and rather wonderful WordPerfect. Maybe the Wang kit that was briefly popular (and the subject of much schoolboy mirth)?

Actually Bruin I think some of this software is available to lesser mortals as you put it. Any WP software that is based around TeX, such as LyX, is likely to do it or be configurable to support it, and I know there is some free stuff out there. It is WYSIWYG word processors that seem not to support the function of translating a double space after period into an em+ space. If you are using software post processes the text input then gives you a page preview, especially if it allows you to code print directions into the document, then it is likely that it will auto adjust two spaces after a period to an em+ space.

In the main though I was talking about WP software that was part of dedicated word processing systems.

Last night I was at a friend's. She has a daisy wheel electronic typewriter that has a lcd display for the line being currently typed. The line is not printed till you get to the end of the line. Surprisingly that does change the two spaces after a period to an em+ space but does not change a single space after a period. Checking some writing I did some years ago on a Brother WP I found that appeared to do the same, though without access to a Brother WP I can't confirm that.

There is an argument that given the fact that most work is now appearing in electronic rather than hard copy print and the variability of display capabilities of various devices that it will come out on that authors should stop using WYSWYG WP software and return to non layout WP software that will produce material that can be subsequently laid out by the appropriate document formatting system, e.g. the style sheet in HTML.

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Until quite recently I was treasuring a Canon electronic typewriter, a daisywheel device with very sophisticated software. It was amazingly fast, precise, had a small two line display and a useful memory, and could do unbelievable things for its day such as draw boxes to outline tables of data - with the corners correctly matching up.

Unfortunately it was taking up space and I chucked it out. Haven't yet chucked out my first 'proper' computer though - a BBC Micro model B.

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Until quite recently I was treasuring a Canon electronic typewriter, a daisywheel device with very sophisticated software. It was amazingly fast, precise, had a small two line display and a useful memory, and could do unbelievable things for its day such as draw boxes to outline tables of data - with the corners correctly matching up.

Unfortunately it was taking up space and I chucked it out. Haven't yet chucked out my first 'proper' computer though - a BBC Micro model B.

I've had to throw out my Canon StarWriter last year when it finally became impossible get new ribbons for it. It was fast, very portable and the software was really good. Did handle two spaces after a period correctly.

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I am old and I have every intention of growing older. Accordingly, there are two spaces after the period because that's the proper way to do it and that, succinctly stated, is that.

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